Ecosystems are complex, and by introducing foods or changing behaviour (by offering food) we create opportunities for negative encounters with wildlife and people/pets.
Simply feeding squirrels, for example, can also attract mice and rats, possums, skunks, coyotes, foxes, feral/community cats, and numerous species of birds of prey (all of these animals can be commonly found in urban and suburban areas). You may not see them, but the impact on the surrounding ecosystem is real. It may feel like helping, but rarely are we able to properly understand the impact we’re having as individuals – and therefore the help can (and often does) very quickly becomes harmful.
To directly help wildlife in your community instead:
- Plant a pollinator garden. Ensuring pollinators have lots to eat and places to be means that everything else in the ecosystem gains some support.
- Keep cats indoors and dogs on leash, particularly in natural areas. Numerous instances of negative encounters (which lead to the wildlife dying) begin with dogs off leash. Research done on coyote encounters with dogs were a bite occurred shows 93% of the time it involved an off-leash dog.
- Clean up the neighbourhood. Getting rid of trash and harmful materials that are in the environment can be more helpful to wildlife in the long-term.
- Get involved with a wildlife rehabilitator. Rehabbers are permitted by their province to administer care to wildlife. These positions are often filled by volunteers and individuals relying on community support for funding. Look yours up and ask how you can help!
While it may feel beneficial and kind in the moment, the long-term consequences of feeding can be devastating not just to the animal offered food, but all others who share their ecosystem.